As Cubs look for more pitching, Kyle Hendricks searches for answers


As Cubs look for more pitching, Kyle Hendricks searches for answers

Kyle Hendricks is self-aware and Ivy League-educated, so he understands where he fits in the bigger picture for the Cubs.

There are bigger names on a team stocked with young talent – and pitchers with better stuff in a frontloaded rotation – but Hendricks knows how he performs will be an X-factor that speeds up or slows down any sense of momentum.   

Hendricks looked and sounded drained when he sat down in the Wrigley Field interview room/dungeon, still searching for answers after Wednesday’s 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“Got to do something different,” Hendricks said. “I thought I was turning it around there for a little bit, and my last two starts I’m just giving my team zero chance to win, which is pathetic.”  

Theo Epstein’s front office will keep looking for deals that would bolster the rotation and at least bump Hendricks (2-4, 4.46 ERA) into the fifth-starter spot.

[MORE: Cubs looking at options with Wada’s status up in the air]

Because a pitcher with little margin for error has already given up nine homers through 78.2 innings this season after allowing only four in 80.1 innings last year. And there’s been no carryover effect from a good May (2.81 ERA) into a bad June (5.88 ERA).  

“You go back and you compare side-to-side your mechanics,” Hendricks said. “There’s not much different. From the video, it all looks similar. It’s just a feel thing. And the feel just isn’t there.”

Hendricks worked his way into The Plan after last summer’s fire sale, going 7-2 with a 2.46 ERA and earning a job through that 13-start audition.

But Hendricks didn’t look very sharp against the Dodgers (40-33), putting his team in an early 4-0 hole by giving up home runs to Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner and lasting only five innings.

“Absolutely, no question,” manager Joe Maddon said he’s seen enough to believe in the 25-year-old Dartmouth College graduate. “He’s still young. He’s inexperienced.

“He understands what he’s doing, but (it’s taking that) understanding and really making it a reality on a consistent basis this year. Because I guess he was really good last year. So if he did it before, he’s going to do it again. I have a lot of faith in him. I have no doubt whatsoever, actually.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Turner’s three-run bomb landed in the left-center field bleachers with two outs in the third inning, but the second-guessing revolved around the at-bat against Dodgers pitcher Mike Bolsinger.

Hendricks got two strikes before Bolsinger connected on a 78 mph changeup – according to’s PITCHf/x data – and doubled into center field to set up a Joc Pederson walk and Turner’s big swing.

“My fault, his fault, either way, it’s just not the right selection, so the blame goes on both of us,” catcher Miguel Montero said. “We need to put (the pitcher) away (and) we just did him a favor.”

With $155 million ace Jon Lester starting on Thursday afternoon, the Cubs (39-31) still have a chance to win a four-game series in which they’ve already beaten Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Epstein’s front office probably won’t acquire a Cy Young Award winner this summer, but with Hendricks struggling and Tsuyoshi Wada sidelined, the Cubs will have to do something.

“It’s always a concern,” Maddon said. “You do need depth there to really take you all the way to the dance, because stuff does happen. It always happens, but I know that our guys are working on it diligently.

“We’ll just see, but I have a lot of faith in our guys that put this whole thing together.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.

Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound


Maddon gets funky with bullpen, calls catcher Chris Gimenez to mound

The Cubs continued their recent struggles, suffering their third straight loss to the Cincinnati Reds. 

But the game was not without its fair share of drama. The matchup was a back-and-forth affair, up until the Reds blew the game wide-open in the bottom of the third inning. This included a grand slam by Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani, the first home run of his career.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen following Cincinnati's third inning explosion, and things did not get much better from there.

With the Cubs down six runs in the bottom of the eight inning, Maddon brought in catcher Chris Gimenez to pitch. 

This was not new territory for Gimenez, who despite being a catcher, now has 10 MLB pitching appearances to his name. 

Down six runs, Gimenez didn't have a lot to lose. But Reds first basemen Joey Votto hammered a fastball in the zone for his eighth homer of the year.

Gimenez had a career ERA of 8.00 before Saturday's appearance, and he certainly didn't do much to help lower that figure.

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers: "Including one today, Cubs relievers have allowed 41.1 percent of inherited runners to score in June, sixth most in the NL." 

A tired bullpen is certainly cause for concern for the Cubs, who are locked into a battle in the NL Central with the Brewers and Cardinals. Maddon was surely hoping to keep his bullpen arms fresh with the move, seeing as the game was already out of reach. 

So yes, the game did end in a 11-2 win for the Reds. But with a grand-slam by a pitcher—on his first career HR no less—and four-seam fastballs from a catcher, Cubs baseball always keep things interesting.